Keep in mind that I'm not saying the short-form is right for everyone. Style can never be "right" or "wrong." But you always need to consider what's right or wrong for a particular client. And if you find yourself stuck in a rut, changing how you do things is definitely right for you. If you're bored with the way your edits look, then edit differently. If you're bored with your raw footage, then shoot differently.
If you do try the short-form, the first hurdle to overcome is the biggest: how to sell it. You need to convince your client that less is more, and sometimes, more is just, well . . . more. And certainly not better.
What's the easiest way to sell a short-form edit? Do one, then show it to your clients. Show them that they aren't missing anything from the story. You're just boiling it down to the essentials—or, to borrow from Ken Ehrhart, the "essence" of the day.
For example, in a Catholic ceremony, Communion can take 15 minutes, not including the preceding ritual with the wine and host. This can add another five to ten minutes. Add another five for the clean-up. Is it really necessary to show the whole 20-25 minute ritual? Or can you boil it down to four shots: family brings the offering forward, priest raises chalice, priest raises host, bride and groom receive host? Done.
Still not convinced? The next time you meet with a client, screen both versions—the full-length and the four-shot—side by side. The moment your client shows the first sign of boredom (probably very soon after the four-shot ends) is the time to strike. "Pretty boring, huh? That's why we do the short-form. We've told the story in four shots that last less than 30 seconds. Lively, huh? And you'll notice that nothing is missing from the story."
And how do you appease clients who are still convinced that more is better? Offer to do a special feature on the DVD. The entire ceremony from all your cameras, in a picture-in-picture (PiP) "outtake." How much editing time will that take? Five minutes? Sell it as a bonus feature to your DVD. Charge extra, or give it away as a "signing" bonus and sell it like this: "You get a polished, exciting edit, but you don't have to worry that you will miss anything either."
You can also take it a step further and add timecode burns to each camera angle, and make it look like a true "Hollywood outtake" (check out the bonus material on the Hannibal DVD, specifically the multicamera shootout scene). You could even offer it as a separate DVD, featuring an interactive switch-between-angles feature. If you have a three-camera ceremony shoot, set up four angles on the DVD, one for each camera, plus a PiP. This way, your clients can switch from one camera to the next at their whim using the angle button on their remote. It takes a minimal amount of post work for you, but it gives them something exciting to buy. Why? Because, being the business-minded videographer that you are, you are going to sell it: "This feature puts you in the director's chair. Watching your wedding ceremony will never be the same experience twice because you are calling the shots. You don't lose anything because you are directing the full ceremony, from processional to recessional. Sign today, and I'll throw it in for . . . "
Most videographers offer the "standard": Ceremony. Reception. Highlights. Some even include Prep/Pre-ceremony. Is this you? If so, then here's another challenge for you: Call your last five clients. Ask them which they watch more often: the full edit or the highlights.
I'm betting that the highlights version is the winner here. Which begs the question, why are we putting forth so much time and energy into something that's not getting any play-time and only serves to please the "more is more" mindset? Wouldn't that time and energy be better spent making the highlight portion even more enjoyable?
I'm going to jumble things up a bit here and throw in my thoughts along with some words of wisdom from Ken Ehrhart and Brett Culp. The three of us seem to have the same outlook on this, even if we say it in different ways.
Produce a video that appeals to you, and you will find an audience that your work appeals to. Don't try to be all things to all customers. And most of all, be unique. Don't replicate what you see others doing. You want to stand out from the crowd, not be swallowed by it.
Until next time, Happy New Year, and if you see me at the 4EVER Group convention in Orlando in January, be sure to introduce yourself. Don't forget those business cards!